Re: CSS for Help Docs]


My views about the proposal to add color and background to the GNOME Online 
Reference Manuals are as follows: 

Branding and Identity Issues: 

- Unless the color and background are consciously related to the GNOME desktop 
as whole, then the use of such features in Help is counter-productive. Our aim 
should be to build universal consciousness and instant recognition of the GNOME 
desktop and applications. We shouldn't add color and background if there is no 
plus for generic GNOME identity. 

- The color and background that we choose might be reminiscent of other 
desktops, applications, or products. This would be self-defeating. 

Usuability Issues:

- Unless the color or background conveys a piece of useful information to the 
user, then it is mere decoration. Decoration is purely subjective. What one 
person, or group of people like, another person or group of people might hate. 
An example of color providing an informational design role would be if the 
navigational text were designated flashing red. I'm not advocating that, just 
saying that the color would serve an integrated design function. Also, an 
example of the background serving a function would be if the background in all 
Help documents were GNOME-grey and the text bright yellow to aid contrast. 
Again, I'm not advocating that approach, merely saying that it's the sort of 
thing that color and background are used for. Decoration is a distraction. Users 
accustomed to modern UI design will be unconsciously looking for a meaning to 
the decoration. They might try clicking on the colored background area to see 
what will happen. 

- People usually access the Help when all else has failed. They don't access 
Help to be entertained. They access Help to find out information that they 
couldn't fathom from the UI. What is the purpose behind the color and background 
feature? To make Help more appealing? There's no point in doing that, the user 
just needs to navigate as quickly as possible to the bit that he or she needs. 
The user is not in the mood for entertainment by the time they access Help, so 
an attempt at making the experience more pleasnt could be a source of 

Accessibility Issues: 

- Calum was edging towards the use of backgrounds as an accessiblity tool, and 
indeed that would be a good thing. A user-variable background color and 
foreground text feature could provide a useful feature.

Localization Issues: 

- Use of color and background patterns might set up localization difficulties. 
Different colors have radically different connotations in different geographies, 
likewise different design patterns. 

I vote for Help to be as plain and uncluttered as possible with just a discreet 
GNOME presence. If color and background can be successfully utilized to improve 
user access to information, then yes, we could use these features. At the 
moment, however, the discussion seems to be focussed on improving the visual 
appeal only, which as I have mentioned, is purely subjective. I would suggest 
avoiding a decoration-only color and background feature.  


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> There's a movement on the GNOME docs list currently to pretty up the
> stylesheets used for presenting online help in GNOME 2.0-- the current
> proposal is here:
> They'd like some input from a usability perpsective, and I've included
> the accessibility guys in the distribution list too, so fire away...
> Cheeri,
> Calum.
> -- 
> CALUM BENSON, Usability Engineer       Sun Microsystems Ireland
> mailto:calum benson ireland sun com    Desktop Engineering Group
>                      +353 1 819 9771
> Any opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Sun Microsystems

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